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Interview with Ironman hard-man Paul Hawkins
I’ve long been an admirer of pro-triathlete Paul Hawkins. His no nonsense attitude to training and belief in hard physical work can be summed up by his website moto: “Pain is a sensation, sensations are there to be enjoyed”.
The recent winner of Marshman, Joe Skipper credited a tough training camp with Hawkins as the springboard to his early season successes and I wanted to catch up with the winner of Outlaw 2010 to find out more and what he was up to this year.
This interview is not to be missed…
Hi Paul, I spoke to Joe Skipper recently and he told us all about your training camp in Wales. It sounds like you train like an animal! Tell us a bit about your camps and training regime and how you like to work?
Yes – myself, Joe and Dan McParland (a top ironman age-grouper) went down to my home town in Wales for some no-frills training for the week.The goal was to get in some real solid riding and running as the location is perfect. There are some quality hills on the doorstep that are brutal, and trails to die-for.So many people are obsessed about training in the likes of La Santa, and yes it’s great to train in the heat as it makes training alot more enjoyable, but I’m a firm believer that Ironman and sport as a whole is so much mental than physical, and the guy or girl that cracks last typically wins, so I prefer to toughen up in the grim wet and cold weather of the UK.Just look at the Brownlees and Jenkins – they spend more time in the UK in similar surroundings, and they are the top dogs. People don’t appreciate what is on the doorstep.
In terms of how I like to train, I was coached by Stephen Bayliss last year and I learnt a hell of a lot, both in terms of training ideas and more importantantly about my bodies limitations.Your body is far more capable than your brain let’s on.I’m continuing to train for Ironman, a typical week consists of a lot of hard intensity work than previous years.I like to train the old way, I’m not into all the technology gizmos that people obsess over. I find it can limit your performances and you dot get to understand the important part your body!I train and coach my athletes purely off feel, you need to understand your bodies limits, what happens when your on that magic race where your flying on top form, and if your heart rate monitor or power meter is saying slow down, your not going to achieve your full potential. Learn your body.
You obviously thrive on hard work and physical exertion – your website moto, ‘Pain is a sensation, sensations are there to be enjoyed’, indicate this further – is this what attracted you to long course racing?
Yes my moto for my blog is: ‘Pain is a sensation, sensations are there to be enjoyed’. It’s one of the cheesie lines that I gained from my bootneck days.I served as a Royal Marines Commando for 5 years, which put me in pretty good stead for this ironman lark.But the moto is true, when I’m abusing my body in training or racing there is a great high inside that you don’t get anywhere else.I started of racing the shorter distance races but I was getting to the end of the races and I could have done it all again. I entered my first middle (Bala Middle in 2005) and my body exploded well before the line, I was a mess. Since then I’ve been hooked on the longer stuff.I think that also to race pro at Olympic the bike doesn’t count – wash and blow dry softies – and with this (cycling) being a big weapon of mine, long distance was to way to go.
You picked up a win at the Chirk Tri recently – how is your season opening up and what are your aims this year?
Yes, I won my local short distance at Chirk. It’s a food indication that things physically are better than planned and I’ve had a solid winters training behind me. I really feel that this is the year to step up to the plate and push the big guns.My body is stronger than ever and now my mind is back in it’s old mindset of respect no one out there. My goal for the year is to podium at an M-dot race, and to leave every ounce of effort on the course.My plan is to race all the UK and Ironman M-dot races, so Ironman UK 70.3, Ironman UK, Ironman Galway 70.3 and Ironman Wales, with also Ironman Sweden in August and then see from there.Although now I’m toying with the idea of Ironman Regensburg instead of Ironman UK 70.3 in June as I’m ready to race now.My main races are Bolton and Wales. I spend so much time riding around Rivington and know every inch of the course so have a big home advantage going into that one, and well Wales there is unfinished buisness as I pulled out on the bike last year. The course there is really tough and the support will rival Roth soon.
You had been working with a shoulder injury earlier this year – how is that?
I’ve had a few niggles with my shoulder but now, touch-wood, are done and dusted. In the pool I’ve been doing alot of strength work to enable me to swim front pack this year, so lots of paddles and band only sessions that put alot more strain on my shoulders, and as a result was causing me some pain. So now I introduced some stretch cord work and core work, aswell as regular stretching especially after some tough pool sets.
You’re a previous winner of The Outlaw, which has gone from strength to strength. Tell us a bit about that win and the confidence it must have given your pro career at that stage?
Yes, I won Outlaw a few years back. It was the first race in 2 years that I had no major stomach problems.The two years previous I was having pretty bad problems in both training and racing. I was throwing up in every race, starting in the swim, and that never improved through the rest of the race.I went for all sorts of tests and they came up with nothing. I had a heart scan, camera down my throat – they diagnosed me with asthma at one stage. Eventually I worked it out for myself that it was a food intolerance, including pretty much 90% of energy products, and most foods that i would eat on race morning, including tea and coffee.I figured this out about a week before Outlaw and got through the race alot more comfortably.I didn’t realise how much it effected my race confidence until recently, but now it’s been put to bed finally.
You’re M-dot racing this year and looking to race against top opposition now. What do you think you can achieve this year and what are your goals with the rest of your pro career now you are at this level?
This year I really feel like I’m ready to compete at Ironman. Last year the goal was to beast myself and get strong.I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight so last year was a stepping stone. I only finished Ironman UK and although I came 7th, it was far from a solid race. My body was fucked all year from training hard.It wasn’t until I took a few easy weeks to see how far I had come.This year i am stronger and will be alot fresher for my big races so there are big goals for this year.
Thanks Paul, that was a fantastic insight into your last 2 years and the kind of mental attitude and commitement required to get to the top level of M-dot racing. Look forward to following the year.
As well as being a pro triathelete, Paulis a coach and offers back-to-basic, no frills, old-fashioned training camps. Joe Skipper recently won Marshman on the back of one – make sure you check it out here.
Paul is sponsored by Starley Bikes, a British manufacturer. Also, check out custom kit designers Epix Gear who have supplied Paul with custom kit – a very patriotic Welsh Dragon.